The best watch order for all of the Dragon Ball anime series

Reading time: 4 min

The watch order for a massive series like Dragon Ball is always complicated, but the movies are the only tricky part this time.

Dragon Ball is easily one of the most recognizable franchises in all of anime. People from all over the world can recognize Goku and Vegeta. and villains like Frieza and Cell are icons in their own right. If you want to join the Dragon Ball fandom the best way to do so is to watch the anime, but what series should you watch, and in what order? 

Before starting the anime, it’s important to note that Dragon Ball is effectively multiple series under one brand’s umbrella. Dragon Ball Z is almost completely unrelated to the original Dragon Ball series aside from the characters. Super is more similar to Z, but reintroduces every character and adds a ton of new faces. The movies themselves are completely optional, though a few are considered canon. 

The best watch order for the Dragon Ball anime series

There are three major Dragon Ball sagas each with their own heroes, villains, transformations, and story arcs. There are also many Dragon Ball movies that intersect the sagas, but the majority of them are not part of the official canon. There is also a fourth series which is generally considered non-canon.

Dragon Ball

The first anime series is a martial arts-themed comedy manga about a strange, tailed boy named Goku and his quest to collect the Dragon Balls. Assembling them all grants a wish from a magical dragon. Several important names and faces like Master Roshi, Krillin, Bulma, Tienshinhan, Yamcha, and more first appear in the original story.

While the first Dragon Ball anime is entertaining and introduces the main cast, it has very little impact on Dragon Ball Z. Viewers who are short on time can skip the original, read up on some character details, and jump back into the watch order with Dragon Ball Z. 

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Dragon Ball Z

Dragon Ball Z is when the series pivoted away from comedy and more towards action. The martial arts of the previous saga now take center stage as Earth is repeatedly threatened by aliens, mad scientists, and weird bubblegum monsters.

Dragon Ball Z is what most western fans think of when it comes to the Dragon Ball franchise. The Z anime series is 291 episodes long, but exact length can vary based on region and language. That said, there’s a faster and better way to get through Dragon Ball Z.

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Dragon Ball GT

Dragon Ball GT is the lesser-known saga of the Dragon Ball series. It was an anime-only continuation of Dragon Ball after Z. Dragon Ball creator Akira Toriyama did not write or help develop GT.

In the series, Goku reverts back to his child body and explores the universe for a new set of Dragon Balls. GT isn’t as fondly remembered as the other sagas on this list, but it’s still worth thinking about for a complete Dragon Ball watch order.

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Dragon Ball Super

Dragon Ball Super is the third and newest chapter of the Dragon Ball franchise. Meant as a continuation of Z, Super introduces a bunch of new characters along with new transformations for Goku and Vegeta. Dragon Ball Super is currently ongoing, with parts of the manga that have yet to be adapted to anime. Once they finish Super, new Dragon Ball fans will be officially caught up on the 38-year-old story.

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If you’re still hungry for more Dragon Ball, there’s always the movies. Some of Dragon Ball’s movies are canonical not some are not. The main series occasionally references some of them, but certain standouts like the original Broly movie and Cooler’s Revenge are officially not canon.

The newer Dragon Ball Super movies are canon and even help explain what goes on in the anime. The Dragon Ball movies aren’t required in the watch order, but they can be entertaining all on their own. 

Kai offers a faster way to watch Dragon Ball Z 

The Dragon Ball Z series is infamous among anime fans for taking ages to resolve anything. There’s a massive amount of standing around talking about the situation, which can quickly get old. Luckily, there’s a much faster alternative.

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Kai is essentially the director’s cut of the Dragon Ball Z anime. The truncated version cuts more than 100 episodes worth of runtime from the original Z anime. It still hits all the major story beats and fights with much less exposition. There are a few details left out, but Kai is meant to follow the original Dragon Ball Z manga as closely as possible. The result is a much faster-paced show that’s easier to binge.

There are also fan-made “abridged” versions of Dragon Ball that vary in quality. The one from TeamFourStar is the most popular. While entertaining, it cuts a lot of story lines and makes drastic changes to the characters. Save it for when you’re already familiar with the franchise.

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